2019 will go down as a historic year for Chile. In less than three months, some things moved faster than they did in the previous 30 years. But as a year counts 12 months, there was a 2019 before Oct. 18. This is 2019 in 12 articles from Chile Today.
January: Chile Announces Ban on Plastic Bags
An exemplary step for the country that at that time still believed it would be the host of the COP25: Chile is the first country in Latin America to completely ban plastic bags. Supermarkets can only sell paper bags or bags made from recycled material.
February: The Altiplanic Winter
The Altiplanic Winter is not an uncommon phenomenon for the northern regions of Chile, but in 2019 the torrential rains hit especially hard. A Red Alert was declared in the commune of Antofagasta after the Loa river broke its banks, and in the city of Calama drinking water was cut. The economy in Chile would suffer from the damage in the mining industry throughout the year.
March: Controversy Over Calle Segura Plans
Modernization of the Carabineros and PDI, increase in the number of Carabineros on the streets, investments in new technologies such as cameras and drones: President Piñera announced a broad variety of new security measures, aimed at stopping crime in the streets. His plans faced resistance after he sought to change the identity control law’s minimum age from 18 to 14.
April: Still No End To Abuse Scandal
Chile has seen bishops and priests resign over abuse scandals, with the case of the notorious priest Fernando Karadima a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the religious institutes in Chile. A few months earlier, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati resigned after being accused of covering up abuse, then his replacement Celestino Aós was the subject of similar accusations in his first week. In April, four Jesuit priests were also investigated for the abuse of at least 90 victims.
May: Colonia Dignidad Survivors Receive Compensation
A special fund earmarked by the German government started paying compensation to victims of the Colonia Dignidad sect led by Paul Schäfer. According to government officials, each victim will receive up to €10,000 (CLP$7.77 million) in an attempt to heal the open wound that is Colonia Dignidad in both Chile and Germany. For the survivors, the case is not yet closed: several weeks after the announcement from Germany they sued the Chilean state for slavery.
June: Copa América Time
In June, Chile played its matches for the Copa América. The tournament was off to a perfect start with a clean 4-0 victory against invitee Japan, followed by a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. Chile lost its last match against Uruguay but still managed to qualify for the next round. After penalties, the team won against Colombia but lost in the semi-final against Peru, the surprise of the tournament. The match for third place against eternal rivals turns into a painful loss after an early red card for captain Gary Medel.
July: Rare Solar Eclipse
Early in July, Chile set the stage for a rare phenomenon: the solar eclipse. The Moon passed between the Earth and the Sun causing a 90-mile-wide shadow that obscured the Sun as it traveled across the Earth’s surface over the course of 90 minutes. Having the clearest skies in the world, Chile was the best place to experience the spectacle in totality.
August: Agricultural Emergencies Across the Country
The worst drought in decades begins to take its toll on Chile. In two entire regions and over 50 municipalities in Chile, an agricultural emergency was declared by authorities, meaning that extra resources became available to support the farmers in the areas affected by the so-called “mega-drought.” The Valparaíso, Metropolitan, and O’Higgins regions are hit especially hard.
September: Decrease in Working Hours?
It’s a law that touches Chile’s neoliberal soul: a decrease in work hours, from 45 to 40 per week. Right-wing politicians claim a reduction is bad for business, while those defending the proposed law state that it will increase mental well-being, among other things, and will not hurt productivity.
October: Not About 30 Pesos, About 30 Years
October 2019 is a month no Chilean will ever forget. What started with groups of students evading metro fares in response to a 30 pesos increase, evolved into a nationwide revolt against all abuses suffered for 30 years through a system that only benefits a few. The government was completely taken by surprise and declared a State of Emergency, allowing the army to take to the streets. In the first weeks of the protests, over 20 people died, hundreds were arrested, and numerous supermarkets and businesses were looted and burned. Chile entered a crisis.
November: Human Rights Organizations Report Violations
One month into the crisis, there were few signs that the people of Chile were giving up. Nearly every day, thousands of protesters took the streets in cities throughout the country and President Piñera responded with drastic measures, such as sacking several ministers, canceling the APEC and COP25 summits and promising a referendum for a new Constitution. But in November, human rights organizations started publishing their reports on Chile, strongly condemning what they asserted were serious and systematic human rights violations committed by security forces.
December: Feminists Fuel the Protests
It started with a performance in Valparaíso and became a global movement: the women from LasTesis, with their chant “A rapist in your way,” took a rebellious stand against sexism and sexual violence. Their performance is adopted and adapted in numerous countries. But the performance doesn’t only motivate feminists in other countries, it also gives energy to protesters in Chile. Their song became an anthem against police oppression, and a light in dark times at the end of a historic year in Chile.